Back for its fifth year, White Night Melbourne (Sat Feb 18, 7pm-7am) is an all-night art party that must be seen to be believed. Venture into the city after dark and you'll find jaw-dropping projection art on major buildings, trippy installations hiding around corners and in parks, live music in the middle of the streets, roving performances and many more surprises. It pays to plan ahead, which is why we've put together our highlights. Our tip: make sure you venture further than the main streets (with friends, of course) – you never know what you'll uncover.
In addition to pop-up art pieces and performances, don't forget that Melbourne's many cultural institutions will stay open all night. You can check out the David Hockney and Viktor & Rolf exhibitions at the NGV, the First Peoples exhibiton at the Melbourne Museum, the On Air: 40 Years of 3RRR exhibition at the State Library of Victoria, the Philippe Parreno show at ACMI and more.
Where: Melbourne Museum Plaza
When: 8pm, 9.30pm, 11pm, 12.30am, 2am, 3am, 5.30am
Jump straight in to your White Night adventure with the fiery fury of 'The Pyrophone Juggernaut': an immense organ made from salvaged metal that wouldn't be out of place in Mad Max. The instrument, created by experimental sound-creators Hubbub Music in association with Strut & Fret – spews out flames as it unleashes otherworldly melodies and Earth-shattering rhythms.
Where: Carlton Gardens
Go on: touch the bubble. There is no velvet rope in front of 'Sonic Light Bubble': an installation by Melbourne-based art and design practice Eness. This 'breathing' bubble, dotted with LED lights, responds to your touch with sound and light displays.
Where: Birrarung Marr
Venture down to the banks of the Yarra and be drawn to the ethereal beauty of 'Spherophyte': a moving flower-like sculpture by Melbourne artist Alex Sanson (AKA Metaform). Feel the world slow down around you as Spherophyte's 48 moving arms fold, unfold and blossom in a meditative loop.
Where: Southbank Promenade
Is that a firework frozen in time? No, it's 'Echinodermus': a massive moving sculpture by French artistic studio TILT. Eleven-metre-tall glowing leaves will sway in the wind, as the tree – inspired by the echinocactus family – stretches high above the crowds.
Where: Alexandra Gardens, Engineers Lawn
700,000 LEDs make up the archways of 'Axiom': a towering installation that exists in the intersection of the physical and virtual worlds. Step into an archway and be swept into a world of animation, percussion and hypnotic soundscapes.
Where: Alexandra Gardens
There's an alien quality about jellyfish; and no more so than when one emerges, singing a haunting melody, from the Yarra River. This light piece by John Fish will see a jellyfish (of the hydro medusae variety, no less) rise from the water and float through laneways, singing a siren song as she flies.
Where: Royal Exhibition Building
Last year, Instagram lit up with kaleidoscopic projection art dancing across the historic Royal Exhibition Building. This year, it's back, led by Sydney projection pioneers Artists in Motion. 'Rhythms of the Night' will cycle through the four stages of sleep, slipping from light, interrupted snoozing into deep REM slumber.
Where: State Library of Victoria exterior
A medieval poem is the inspiration behind this collaboration between sound producer Lisa Greenaway, projection artist Nick Azidis and digital artist Rose Staff. The exterior of the State Library will become an ever-changing garden, filled with winding vines, fountains, arches and a dreamy soundscape.
Where: State Library of Victoria, La Trobe Reading Room
Don't be scared off by the inevitable queues into the State Library; 'Seadragon's Lair' – a psychedelic underwater adventure projected onto the grand dome of the La Trobe Reading Room – will be entirely worth it. Lose yourself in the seascapes of Port Phillip Bay, as animation, sound and cinematography turn this majestic space into an entirely new world.
Where: St Paul's Cathedral, exterior
Homelessness in Melbourne is becoming increasingly visible on the streets and in the media; and yet, many of us choose not to notice. St Paul's Cathedral will become a canvas for 'Home Less' – a projection piece by Melbourne artist Chase Burns. Watch as a homeless woman ascends into her dream state, where she is free from her daily fight to survive.
More Than 1 Nation
Where: Flinders Street Station, Degraves Street entrance
Before colonisation, Australia was a land comprising hundreds of separate 'nations' or 'language groups'. This striking projection piece – a collaboration between projection group The Electric Canvas and Indigenous art collective Pitcha Makin Fellas – is a narrative that reminds the viewer of the diversity and complexity of Australia's First Nations communities, and that these cultures and stories still exist in Australia today.
Where: Bourke Street Mall
This year, White Night will have several main live music hubs dotted through the city. The largest is Live Music Marathon on Bourke Street, which will see a hugely diverse line-up of musicians take to the stage from 7pm until 7am. Highlights include very danceable funk from The Seven Ups (10.40-11.40pm) The Cat Empire's Felix Riebl (midnight-1am) and old-school punk from The Interceptors (2.40am-3.30am).
Where: Collins Street Baptist Church
One of Melbourne's oldest spaces will play host to an audiovisual installation by ambient techno duo OK EG (AKA Matthew Wilson and Lauren Squire). The pair will use water, stone, light and mirrors – filtered through digital technology – to create layered rhythms and melodies.
Where: Collins Street, between Elizabeth and Swanston Streets
No school like the old school. Collins Street will become a big ballroom for White Night, with a big band playing swingin' tunes from the '30s, '40s and '50s. Got two left feet? No worries – some of Victoria's best swing and ballrooms dancers will be on hand to run demonstrations and entertainment throughout the night. Classic cars from the era will line the streets to get you in the mood.
Where: Federation Square
Tango, waltz, reggae, blues, folk and classical are all on the cards at Fed Square, as performers from Melbourne and beyond bring soothing and soulful sounds from 7pm to 7am. Highlights include Ruth Roshan and Tango Noir (8.50-9.40pm), the Briar String Quartet (11.20pm-12.20am) and The Drowsy Maggies (2-3am).
If you're in it for the long haul (7pm-7am) there's only one way to do White Night. There are more than 40 bars and restaurants open around the Melbourne CBD during White Night to keep you fuelled, with 32 of these venues licensed to serve you a tipple with your midnight snack.
Know where to go when you gotta go
Nothing kills your vibe like a sudden urge to pee at an inconvenient time – especially when it’s in the middle of a 12-hour art party in the CBD. White Night is providing toilets at a number of convenient street corners across the CBD, check 'em before you wreck 'em.